Saturday, December 8, 2012

Bouvet's "Hollandisme"

Laurent Bouvet offers a careful, deliberate, analytical reading of what he calls "le Hollandisme" in power, which he sees as in many ways continous with Hollande's tenure as head of the Socialist Party:
Cette pratique du pouvoir, qui était déjà visible et sensible chez le premier secrétaire du Parti socialiste pendant dix ans, met en lumière un deuxième trait caractéristique du hollandisme : le refus de tout a priori idéologique, de toute position doctrinale figée.
For Bouvet, Hollandism, in addition to rejection of rigid a priori ideological doctrine, consists of what Dick Morris first named "triangulation" (LB: "son sens de l'équilibre et sa permanente quête d'un compromis entre des positions adverses, sinon antagonistes"), coupled with a "new sociology of power" characterized by a return of the énarques, banished (to a certain extent) by Sarkozy, and promotion of local leaders who had worked their way up through the ranks of power in socialist-controlled local and regional fiefdoms.

This is an intelligent analysis, and as Bouvet notes, it is too early to say whether Hollandism will actually bear the desired fruits. Using Bouvet's categories, however, one can hazard a few judgments. The "new" sociology of power is perhaps better seen as a return to the old sociology of power of the early years of the Gaullist Republic, Then, le pouvoir périphérique, as Pierre Grémion called it, governed effectively by striking a compromise between a highly technocratic and competent central state and flexibile, opportunistic local power elites. The challenges now are different from the challenges then, however, and one might argue that such a coalition was better suited to the needs of postwar reconstruction and modernization than to the Schumpeterian creative destruction required (to my mind--many will disagree) by the present conjuncture of the global economy.

Second, pragmatism can be a desirable quality in a president, but it must be tempered by a firm fix on the North Star: in plain language, the leader must know where he wants to go. Bouvet sums up Hollande's presumptive goal in a resonant formula:
de devenir en cours de mandat un grand président de gauche qui, grâce à l'efficacité de son action davantage qu'à son sens du tragique dans l'Histoire, changerait enfin la société française en réorientant ses choix économiques, en pesant sur le destin européen et en garantissant davantage d'égalité entre ses concitoyens.
Achieving these ends would indeed change the French perception of social democracy for the better, and Hollande wants to be remembered as "a great social democrat" as well as "a great president," but it would be reassuring if his intermediate goals along the way to such a fine destiny were more clearly articulated. It is hard to judge the efficacy of any particular policy or strategy against such a general aim as "reorienting France's economic choices and weighing on Europe's destiny."

Finally, flexibility and suppleness are fine things, but in the end, gouverner, c'est choisir, and firm choices have never been Hollande's forte. As Socialist leader he temporized; as President he has frequently, and quite properly, availed himself of the prerogative to remain above the fray. But there will come a time--there have already come times--when he must make his position known, and then we will see whether, as Texans say, he's all hat and no cattle or the real deal.


PF said...

Hollande's weakness is also partly a product of the PS's weakness among its politicians and its ambient intellectuals in insistently articulating and pushing for innovative economic policies and arguments for European visions. Hollande, like any head of state, will partly have to be pushed by his party and public debate to move forward on certain decisions. The PS won, but their agenda remains amorphous and hesitant. Hollande as symptom more than cause.

MCG said...

This sounds very much like President Obama.